Glen was getting more disappointed by the week. His lawn care business wasn't that large, but he needed to get clients for this coming spring, or he wouldn't be able to grow.
A month ago, Glen hired a business coach named Coach Russ. Russ told him that he needed to start working ON the business instead of IN the business, so he hired a new saleswoman. She was going to make phone calls each week and he would gain new clients so that he could grow his landscaping business for the next season. It had been a month, and his new saleswoman, Lucy, hadn't gained one client. This was not the way it was supposed to work. How could Glen focus on other parts of his business, when he was paying a salesperson who wasn't producing? His coaching session was coming up with Coach Russ, and he was prepared to give Russ a piece of his mind.
As usual, Coach Russ started the coaching session call with a question about Glen's homework, "How is your new salesperson working out?"
Glen snapped, "Glad you asked Russ. It's terrible! Lucy has been making 10 calls a day and getting voicemail. She says she gets one returned call, and that caller isn't interested in a landscaping contract."
Russ calmly responded, "What's your expectation for Lucy's performance?"
"I need to get at least two new clients each month for me to justify hiring Lucy. But I was hoping that she could do a lot better than that."
"We discussed this in your business plan. In order for your to meet your business plan goals, what quantity of new clients do you NEED from Lucy?"
"I NEED four new clients per month to meet our business plan projections. But I don't see how Lucy will get there at this rate."
"If you were to give me your three top reasons that Lucy is not achieving the results you'd like, what would they be?"
"I guess she’s probably not as good at sales as I thought when I hired her. Maybe I need to replace her with someone else. Or maybe I need to just cut my losses and start selling myself. At least I won't be spending money on a salesperson who can't sell."
"Glen, do you remember our discussion on Energy?"
"Yeah. What does that have to do with Lucy?"
"Glen, Energy is not just an idea that’s true for you, it's an idea that applies to your employees as well."
"Ok. I guess I never thought of it that way."
"Given, what you learned about energy, what energy level do you think Lucy’s currently selling at?"
"Can you remind me about the levels again?"
"Sure. Level 1 is Victim; Level 2 is Conflict; Level 3 is Acceptance; Level 4 is Compassion; Level 5 is Opportunity; Level 6 is Synergy; and Level 7 is Awareness."
Glen paused, and then answered, "Russ, I guess I'm not sure. I don't know how this energy stuff is going to get Lucy to connect with customers."
"How about we set up a meeting with Lucy? I'll show you how to identify the level of energy she’s operating at; and how shifting her energy level will improve her sales performance. Make sense?"
"I suppose. What should I tell Lucy? We're going to check out her energy?"
"Please don't say that. Just tell Lucy, we'd like to see how we can help her perform better on her sales calls."
A week had gone by, and Lucy had the same lack-luster performance in her phone calls. Russ, Glen and Lucy met in a small conference room in Glen's office space. Based on Lucy's demeanor, it was clear this was not the first time she’d been in a meeting with a consultant and a boss regarding her sales performance.
Russ started, "Lucy, I want to let you know that we're here to help. Glen has expressed concerns to me about needing to get more sales, and I think I may be able to help. I'll be asking you questions and need you to be perfectly honest with your answers. Otherwise, we’re all wasting our time. Do we have a deal?"
Lucy responded, "Sure."
Russ said, "All of us humans start our actions with a thought. We then follow up that thought with a feeling, and then that feeling prompts us to act in some way. Regarding your calls with prospective customers. Before you ever get on the phone, what are you thinking?"
Lucy looked quite confused, "What am I thinking?"
"Yes. What do you tell yourself before you make a phone call?"
"I tell myself, ‘I hope this customer signs up for landscaping services'"
"Okay. I think we are getting thoughts and feelings mixed up. Hope is a feeling. What is the thought that precedes your feeling of hope?"
The room was silent as Glen and Russ awaited Lucy's answer.
After a long pause, Lucy replied, "I guess I am THINKING, 'I should get sales because Glen told me that if I make 10-calls a day, I should get at least one customer that engages in a conversation, and I should get at least one customer each week.'"
Russ responded, "Got it. Let me get this straight. Glen told you that you need to make a certain amount of calls, and those calls should result in one customer per week, and so you have hope before each call that you’ll get sales with the calls you're making, right?"
"I guess so. That's what you said... isn't it Glen?"
Glen was watching this confusing conversation until his name was mentioned, "Yeah! That's what I said alright."
Russ continued, "I want to make sure that we stick to our thought, feeling and action story. We've got the thought, and the feeling. And, I think we all know what the action is at this point. It sounds like you’re getting voicemail, and only getting one message returned each week. Is that right?"
Lucy responded, "Yip. Only one returned call... and they’re calling me to tell me to stop calling."
Russ said, "Got it. Now, Lucy, I want you to think of a different and more positive thought than the one that you have currently."
Lucy squinted her eyes, "What?"
"You said that you currently think 'you should get sales if you follow Glen's instructions on phone calls". What is a more productive thought than this one?"
"Russ, I don't get it. Isn't an employee supposed to do what her boss tells her to do?"
"Let me ask you, If you do everything Glen tells you to do, but don't gain one client, how long will Glen be able to keep you employed?"
Lucy tensed up, "You want me to do something different than what Glen is telling me?"
"I want you to take control of your success as a saleswoman. I'll ask again, what is a more productive thought that you can have before you make a call, than following Glen's advice of 10-calls per day?"
"I suppose I could try to make 20-calls per day. Is that what you mean?"
"Let's back up a little. Why are you making these calls?"
"To sell Glen's landscaping services."
"True enough. Why will a prospective customer want to hire Glen to do their landscaping?"
"I suppose they want to have their grass cut on a regular basis; and they're too lazy to do it themselves."
Russ could see that Lucy needed to shift her thinking to think more about Glen's prospective customers, "I want you both to talk and come up with three key needs your customers have for your landscaping services; and how your service will uniquely satisfy those needs. I want you to then put yourself in the shoes of this needy customer and feel how it feels to not have quality service. After that, I want you to create a phone script that speaks specifically to these needs."
Glen was writing furiously, as he always did, when Russ dealt out his homework.
The next week, Glen, Russ, and Lucy all reconvened in the conference room.
Glen started, "Russ, I hope you know what you're doing. We wasted an entire week working on your homework; and didn't make one phone call."
Russ smiled, "It sounds like you made more progress than you did the week before."
Glen chuckled, "I guess so. I just hope we can get some customers this week."
Russ turned his attention to Lucy, "I'll ask you again, what thought will you have before you make your phone call this coming week?"
Lucy smiled, "After all the homework, Glen and I did this past week, I think I have a better understanding of why customers will hire us to do their landscaping. I have changed my phone script to talk about the benefits we offer; instead of asking them to return my call."
"I think that's great. However, I want you to tell me what your prospective customer is thinking before you make a call."
Glen started, then Russ held up his hand, "I want Lucy to tell me."
Glen gestured to Lucy, and she spoke up, "We talked about how they don't have time to take care of their yard; but they also want their yard to look nice when they use it on the weekends."
"Great, Lucy. Now, what are you thinking before you make your call?"
"I'm thinking about an ugly yard that I want to make beautiful before the weekend, and how I don't have time to do anything with the yard."
"Awesome! Now, let me know what that makes you feel like before you make your call?"
"I guess I feel empathetic to these poor people that can't take care of their yard."
"Got it. Empathy is good. Now, what action will you do because of your feeling of empathy for the prospective client?"
Lucy responded, "We changed our script. We talk about how we understand how hard it is to constantly deal with your yard when you have other things to do. And we want to help."
"Great! I'm eager to see how your new script works this week."
Glen commented, "So am I."
Another week passed, and Glen, Russ, and Lucy reconvened in the same conference room. Glen and Lucy were noticeably excited about their past week's progress.
Glen started, "Russ, it worked! We got one customer and three returned voice mails of other prospects that may want to sign up. You did it!"
Russ smiled, "I didn't do anything. Lucy and you did all the work. I merely helped you think a little differently about your prospects. How would you like to do even better?"
Glen looked a little baffled, "I don't know if I want to change anything. Didn't you hear me? We're meeting our goals with our new approach to selling."
Russ responded, "I know. I'm just asking if you'd like to do better?"
Lucy spoke up, "Of course. What have you got?"
"You used to think, 'I have to make 10-calls'. Your new thought was 'empathy for your customer'. What is a completely different thought that may be more productive?"
Glen and Lucy stared at each other in bewilderment.
Glen spoke up, "I don't understand, Russ. Can you give us a hint?"
"You just moved from a thought of ACCEPTANCE to a thought of COMPASSION. The next level would be OPPORTUNITY. Opportunity means that you may consider a completely different way of communicating to your prospective customers than phone calls. Make sense?"
Lucy said, "I think I know. You’re talking about direct-mail or something else, right?"
Glen interjected, "I don't think I can afford a direct-mail campaign. What's wrong with getting one new customer per week?"
Lucy spoke up again, "It doesn't have to be direct-mail. Maybe we can do a Facebook ad showing a picture of a guy mowing his lawn on one side and on the other side a family enjoying their manicured lawn playing games?"
Russ exclaimed, "Wow! What do you think about that, Glen?"
Glen responded, " I don't know. What does a Facebook ad cost? What if we don't get customers? Why don't we stick with what we know works?"
Russ asked, "Lucy, can you step out for a second? I'd like to talk with Glen in private."
Lucy obliged and left the room.
Glen spoke first, "Russ, we have gotten what I wanted. Lucy is now getting customers. Why are you making this so hard?"
Russ understood that Glen was feeling fearful about trying something new. It wasn't the first time. It took a month of coaching before Glen hired Lucy in the first place. It wasn't unexpected that Glen would feel pressured to try something new.
Russ spoke, "Glen, I want to bring our discussion back to energy levels."
Glen remarked, "That's right. We were supposed to be educating Lucy on energy; and we haven't talked about energy at all. Now, you're pressuring me to do a Facebook ad."
"I won't pressure you to do anything you don't want to do. Remember, our conversation. I talked about moving from ACCEPTANCE to COMPASSION to OPPORTUNITY? What energy levels do those thoughts represent?"
Glen lit up, "I get it. Level 3 is ACCEPTANCE, Level 4 is COMPASSION, and Level 5 is OPPORTUNITY. You dog! You were tricking Lucy into increasing her energy level all along."
Russ smiled, "You got me. Now, where do you think YOUR energy level is with this discussion?"
Glen was deep in thought... and finally responded, "I guess I'm still at Level 3 - ACCEPTANCE. I don't want to rock the boat. I want to do what I know works, rather than take a risk with Facebook ads that are an unknown."
"Glen, there's no right or wrong with these energy levels. I just want you to be aware, that in general, higher levels of energy create higher levels of productivity in your business. You may be right... trying Facebook, may be a complete mistake. Or you may be wrong... trying Facebook could be the best thing that’s ever happened to your company. All I can tell you is that Lucy has jumped from Level 3 to Level 5; and it's up to you to either encourage that energy; or stifle it in favor of a more conservative approach. I just wanted to make sure we had this discussion before you made a final decision."
"I'll think about it Russ. Let Lucy and me talk about it. I'll let you know what we decide."
"That's all I can ask."
Glen called Russ later that same day and let him know that they would try one Facebook ad for a month. He agreed that he would pay $1,000 per month for the ad. Lucy was so excited about her idea, that she would risk some of her salary to pay half of the $1,000. If the Facebook ad paid off, Lucy would get $100 additional commission for every client who signed up through Facebook.
Russ told Glen that Lucy had indeed fully shifted to Level 5. Level 5 salespeople are deal-makers and opportunists. Lucy had jumped two energy levels over only two weeks. Hopefully, she could stay at this level. Better yet, hopefully, Glen wouldn’t stifle Lucy's high energy.
As it turned out, the first Facebook ad was a flop. They got a lot of activity on Facebook, but needed to tweak the ad for the first month to target the right people. Since Lucy had invested in the advertising plan, she was engaged in learning about Facebook advertising and how it worked.
By the second month, Lucy discovered that Nextdoor, a different social media, would work much better than Facebook, but it took more of her time. Within three months, Glen’s landscaping business was getting six new customers a month. On top of this, his new customers were referring even newer customers and his landscaping business was starting to grow.
The next landscaping business would be busy. All because Coach Russ helped Lucy get engaged in Win-Win selling at Level 5 – OPPORTUNITY energy.
Now it’s time to break this story down. There are lots of lessons we can glean from Glen’s landscaping sales efforts.
The first is energy. Energy is simply the combination of a thought, a feeling, and an action. At the lowest level, VICTIM, we tend to do what we’re told and don’t feel like we have any control to make a difference. Had Lucy continued on her path of 10-phone calls a day, she would have eventually been fired, Glen would have taken over selling again, and Coach Russ would have been considered a bad business coach for wasting Glen’s time hiring a salesperson in the first place.
In our story we skipped the second level of conflict and went to Level 3 which is ACCEPTANCE. Glen and Lucy were happy to get to Level-3 as they had finally gotten to a level that met Glen’s expectations. This can be one of the most difficult levels as a business coach… because your client is content to stick with what they have even though it’s not what they want.
Level 5 which is OPPORTUNITY energy. Entrepreneurs thrive at Level 5. They will try new ideas and keep tweaking their approach until it works. Level 5 people will experience failures and losses along the way but are always learning and adjusting. That’s what Lucy did when her first Facebook ad failed. Lucy also felt obliged to put her own compensation on the line. Whenever your salespeople trade their base compensation for sales commission, you can be sure they believe in your product and their ability to sell. This also creates a strong motivation to succeed instead of going through the motions of making phone calls.
This brings up the second lesson of today’s story which is EMPOWERMENT. Empowerment means that you are giving your employees control over their own destiny. Once Lucy saw the opportunity to increase her income, she learned digital marketing on her own time and then started driving increased sales which she knew would increase her income. When you give this kind of control to your employees, great things will happen.
One point of caution with empowerment. Some employees will not improve with added responsibility if they’re at lower energy levels. If Lucy had been told to get two new clients a month and not told anything, she could have simply been bewildered. It wasn’t until she saw some success and then learned more about Facebook advertising that she could see her vision of success.
The third and final lesson that I want to talk about was probably the least talked about but may be the most important. That lesson is empathy in selling. Most of you probably don’t think of a salesperson as being “empathetic”. In my history as a sales manager and business owner, this was the number one quality I looked for in the salespeople I hired.
In our story, Glen and Lucy were given homework to document the needs their customers have for their landscaping services. This homework allows the business owner and salesperson to see the services they are trying to sell through the eyes of their customer. In some cases, my business owner clients have changed what they were selling when they did this exercise. It’s so important to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Sometimes the best way to do this is to simply ask them questions to get their true perspective.
I hope you’ve learned a few things from Glen and Lucy’s story. If you’d like to learn more about me or Mechanics & Mindset Business Coaching, I invite you to check us out at www.mmbizcoach.com . You can also subscribe for reminders to our podcast by clicking on the button in this blog post.
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